published Friday, September 21st, 2012

Local songwriters unite for a birthday tribute to The Boss

IF YOU GO

• What: Badlands -- A Birthday Tribute to Bruce Springsteen.

• When: 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.

• Where: Rhythm & Brews, 221 Market St.

• Admission: $7.

• Phone: 267-4644.

• Website: www.rhythm-brews.com.

DID YOU KNOW?

• Bruce Springsteen's legal name is Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen.

• His father was a bus driver, and his mother was a legal secretary.

• The album "Born in the USA" was the first commercial CD to be pressed in the USA.

• Rolling Stone named him the 23rd greatest artist, 36th est singer and 96th greatest guitarist of all time.

• Music by The Boss has been used on soundtracks for more than 125 movies and TV shows, including "Glee," "The Wrestler," "One Tree Hill" and "Dancing With the Stars."

SINGULARLY SPRINGSTEEN

His career has included 70 singles, including 12 that broke the Top 10:

• "Hungry Heart" (No. 5, 1979)

• "Dancing in the Dark" (No. 2, 1984)

• "Cover Me" (No. 7, 1984)

• "Born in the U.S.A." (No. 9, 1984)

• "I'm on Fire" (No. 6, 1985)

• "Glory Days" (No. 5, 1985)

• "I'm Goin' Down" (No. 9, 1985)

• "My Hometown" (No. 6, 1985)

• "War" (No. 8, 1986)

• "Brilliant Disguise" (No. 5, 1987)

• "Tunnel of Love" (No. 9, 1987)

• "Streets of Philadelphia" (No. 9, 1994)

What do you give as a birthday present to a rock legend with an Academy Award, two Golden Globes, 20 Grammys and 120 million album sales?

Probably not a gift card, but perhaps a tribute will suffice. At least, that's what a quintet of local musicians hope is an appropriate homage to Bruce Springsteen, who turns 63 Sunday.

The musicians are calling themselves Badlands in honor of the first track off the New Jersey blue-collar rock legend's album "Darkness on the Edge of the Town." On Wednesday, they will honor The Boss' 40-year career with a slightly belated birthday tribute at Rhythm & Brews.

Badlands is the brainchild of local singer/songwriter Jordan Hallquist. At age 7, Hallquist heard "Born in the USA" during a televised charity fundraiser and said he was struck by Springsteen's critical view of the Vietnam War and marginalization of returning veterans.

"At that age, you're starting to learn the Pledge of Allegiance and 'The Star-Spangled Banner,' and I remember hearing that song and being like, 'Wow, that's bigger than both of those things,' " Hallquist said, laughing.

"Once I heard that first song, I was hooked on what he was doing."

Hallquist will be joined onstage by storyteller Jim Pfitzer, Jeremy Muse, who plays in Hallquist's backing band, The Outfit, and Josh Bates and Aaron Morris, who are on loan from Long Gone Darlings. Local singer/songwriter Mike McDade will open the show with his Neil Young tribute, Old Man, and will perform an acoustic version of Springsteen's "Nebraska."

Over the last six weeks, Hallquist and his bandmates have put together a 90-minute show that trades mostly in Springsteen's most recognizable hits, including Top 10 singles such as "Glory Days," "Born in the USA," and "Dancing in the Dark."

With the exception of a handful of lesser-known songs, such as "Lucky Town" and "Hungry Hearts," Hallquist said the band preferred to cover the songs everyone would know.

How better to honor the work of an artist best known for speaking to the trials and triumphs faced by the masses, Hallquist asked.

"His songs weren't always written about lost love or the typical heartache that a lot of writers in his genre write from; it was just written about life," he said. "Life is a pretty important thing to write about.

"Paying tribute to his songwriting and the way he writes, at this point in time, was a pretty poignant and important move."


Chattanooga Times Free Press entertainment reporter Casey Phillips spoke with local singer/songwriter Jordan Hallquist about his upcoming birthday tribute to Bruce Springsteen, why he fell in love with The Boss and what he’s most concerned with nailing with his performance.

CP: You’re going to miss The Boss’s birthday by three days (actually on Sept. 23). Do you think he’ll mind?

JH: Man, I hope not. I talked to him the other day, and he seems to be OK with it, so we should be good. I think he has something else going on that day. He has something else going on that day, so it worked out better that way.

CP: How did the idea for this show come about?

JH: I’m personally a huge Springsteen fan. He’s been an influence on me and what I do, and many of the guys I play with and collaborate with are also fans of his. The initial idea was to do it on his birthday on the 23rd, but after talking to Mike Dougher, who also is a big Springsteen fanatic, we put it together for the 26th. We want to have fun with it and pay tribute to a guy whose music we all really enjoy.

It’s a fun thing to do with people from the local music scene. It’s me, Jeremy Muse (in Hallquist’s backing band The Outfit), Josh Bates (Long Gone Darlings), Aaron Morris (Long Gone Darlings) and Jim Pfitzer (storyteller). Mike McDade will do one song and will open with the Neil Young tribute, Old Man.

CP: When did you start putting stuff together for it?

JH: We started rehearsing about a month and a half ago. We started going through the library of Springsteen songs, which is quite an exhausting catalog. Instead of trying to pick out the “cool, niche” songs to do for the show, we wanted to play the stuff that, if you’re just a fan of Springsteen and don’t know all the b-sides and rarities, you’ll still know 90-95 percent of the set list.

We’ve got all the big Springsteen songs that fans want to hear when they go see him live. And we picked out a few that we liked personally, like “Lucky Town,” “Streets of Philadelphia,” and “Hungry Hearts,” which is well known but which he doesn’t really play live anymore.

CP: Why Springsteen? What is it about his music that speaks to you?

JH: The thing that has connected me to Springsteen since I was really young is that he comes from a working-class, blue collar community, and he has never lost that heart and that soul of the working class, blue collar family and community and city.

Even up to now with his new album, “Wrecking Ball,” the whole album is a working-class rock’n’roll album. It’s not about glitz, glamor, money and fame or any of that. It’s real. Anyone from any working class city can relate to those lyrics and grasp a hold of them. That always struck me as something amazing.

His songs weren’t always written about lost love or the typical heartache that a lot of writers in his genre write from; it was just written about life. Life is a pretty important thing to write about. In this day and age, with the economy the way it is, I think he’s ringing truer now than he has in the last 15-20 years, just because of where we’re at.

Paying tribute to his songwriting and the way he writes, at this point in time, was a pretty poignant and important move. He’s just always stuck with me because he’s always written about life.

CP: When do you remember first hearing Springsteen? What song was it and how did it make you feel?

JH: The first time I heard Springsteen was on a public broadcasting at a fundraiser of some sort, and they were showing a concert. I was seven or eight, and I remember hearing “Born in the USA” for the first time.

At that age, you’re starting to learn the Pledge of Allegiance and the “Star Spangled Banner,” and I remember hearing that song and being like, “Wow, that’s bigger than both of those things.” [Laughs.] Not to be detrimental to either of those things, but I heard that and it brought something up in me at that age that I didn’t understand.

As the years went by and I started learned more about the lyrics and understanding them, it’s making a statement that “I’m born in the USA but right now the country isn’t where it should be, and that’s OK.” It wasn’t an overly political statement, just a guy saying, “Hey, this is how I’m feeling. I’m a working class guy. I went to Vietnam and had to do this stuff.”

I started reading those lyrics and really started understanding them when I was 12 or 13, and I got a grasp of what was going on during that era. Once I heard that first song, I was hooked on what he was doing. The next thing I did was get my mom to buy me “Born to Run” and started listening from there.

CP: Have there been any surprises during rehearsals? Material that did or did not work? Things you were or were not especially good at?

JH: Among musicians, Springsteen’s songs are simply written, but lyrically, not so much. One trouble I’ve had is that there are a ton of lyrics in every Springsteen song. [Laughs.] Memorizing those and getting those down correctly and singing them at the right time has been a little bit of a challenge for me. Springsteen songs are sing-along songs, and people know them and sing every word to them.

Musically, what he creates live is really a wall of sound. People look at the E Street Band and say “There are so many musicians up there, but I can’t hear all of them.” But that’s not a four-piece rock’n’roll band where the electric guitar is out there or the drums are huge sounding. Everything is there, and it’s just a big wall of sound.

On a couple of songs, we’ve had to rearrange some stuff because we don’t have 10 people up there on stage at one time, at least for this time through. I say this time through because I think we’ll do this again and again. There’s been some good response to it. I don’t think this will be a one-off.

These songs are very simple and easy to play, but the fill up parts and sounds they have on the record have been a little bit challenging on a few of them.

CP: What are you most concerned with nailing about Springsteen’s music? What do you think fans will be disappointed by you not getting right?

JH: I really think it’s the lyrics. Those are going to be the biggest thing. Obviously, some certain key parts, like the synth part on “Dancing in the Dark,” and the intro to “Born in the USA,” are just signature parts. If we didn’t nail those, yeah, there would be some disappointment, but the real disappointment is not being able to sing along to all the songs you know. The lyrics are going to be very key in this, and since I’m the lead singer, that’s all on me. [Laughs.]

CP: Are you more excited or nervous at this point?

JH: I’m very excited at this point. I’m excited about the whole thing. This first one will be kind of a trial-and-error, as far as how many people come out and how people grab a hold of it, but we’re ready for it. We’re excited and prepared.

Email Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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